Psychic Pandemic III: Dissident Questions from a Giant Prison

The worst is not, so long as we can say, “This is the worst.”

King Lear, IV, ii

A wasp settled on a snake’s head and tormented it by continually stinging it.  The snake, maddened with the pain and not knowing how else to be relieved of his tormentor, put its head under the wheel of a wagon, so that they both perished together.

–Aesop’s Fables

[LOYAL READER:  I realize that, as a rhetorical device, asking a multitude of questions can pose an annoying obstacle to pleasant reading.  But the point of the following is (another question):  Why are so few people asking them?]

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  1. Name That Dictator

Scene:  A TV game-show studio, some place, some time in the latter half of the 21st century… 

Listen carefully, contestants.  This is the final question for the Grand Prize of a two-week, all-expense-paid vacation this spring in Milan, Italy, when the city celebrates its grand re-opening to tourism.  Ready? 

Name the cruel, power-crazed despot who sentenced his entire population to house arrest; forced his citizens, including the frail and the elderly, to line up for hours in freezing temperatures to buy food; made it illegal for the owners of private businesses to operate without special permission, or their employees to go to work, upon pain of imprisonment, plunging the world into an economic depression and universal poverty from which it wouldn’t recover for generations; ordered his police to disperse protestors, arrest people for worshiping in synagogues and churches, and fine visitors to public parks; and encouraged citizens to denounce their non-compliant neighbours to the authorities, all the while broadcasting soothing public service announcements from overhead drones to the effect that the Government has the safety and well-being of its subjects in the uppermost chamber of its divinely charitable and loving Heart: 

  1. Orwell’s Big Brother
  2. Kim Jong-Un
  3. Pol Pot
  4. Mao
  5. Stalin
  6. Robespierre
  7. Savonarola
  8. the Emperor Diocletian
  9. Pharaoh Ramses II
  10. None of the above

Solzhenitsyn accurately described the Soviet Union as “a giant prison”, but at least its inmates grumbled when they were compelled to stand in long lines to buy bread; and while they were slaves, they knew they were slaves.  None of them accepted their servitude in the blissful confidence that it was for their own good, or failed to recognize that their benevolent masters were merchandising risible lies.

 

As Christopher Ferrara has brilliantly diagnosed the current international death cult:

Based on the pretext that we must “limit the spread” of the Wuhan virus, the American economic boom of the past three years has been reversed in a matter of days, millions have lost their jobs, tens of thousands of small businesses have been shuttered and will probably never reopen, and three-quarters of the American population has been subjected to some form of house arrest by state, county and city governments. 

All over the country people are being fined or arrested and jailed for violating suddenly imposed restrictions on their every movement and gathering, often with the aid of their neighbors, who turn them in to the police, following instructions on how to be a snitch. Attendance at religious services has been forbidden altogether or limited to ten people, even in vast cathedrals, while “permission” is granted to crowd supermarkets and convenience stores, buy booze, purchase cannabis and have pets groomed.

In New York State, the Bill Gates-subsidized Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IMHE) “model” predicting doom in that state has been exposed as little short of a hoax, as its dire predictions are continually being slashed to match actual numbers and are still wildly off the mark. Yet, in New York City, hovering drones bark out commands to observe “social distancing” of “at least six feet” in a message that ends on a chillingly Orwellian note: “We are all in this together!” 

America’s almost instantaneous transformation into a police state is based on “models” that “predicted” upwards of 2 million deaths from the Wuhan virus without “mitigation” in the form of a preposterous attempt to quarantine 330 million people. And the people have obsequiously bowed to every ridiculous command.

  1. Signs of the Times

Save for police sirens and barking dogs—not feral dogs, as of yet—my own neighbourhood on the edge of downtown Toronto is lugubriously quiet.  There are practically no cars on the streets or pedestrians on the sidewalks.  The city resembles one of those European villages after its population had been wiped out by the Black Death of the 14th century, or the cholera epidemic of the 19th.

Except that there are no corpses with hideously distorted visages lying in the doorways of Toronto’s houses, and no swarms of avian scavengers blocking out the sun.  As of April 16, there have been 147 fatalities attributed to the coronavirus in this city of 2.5 million, scarcely more than the number of Torontonians who have been killed by automobiles, household accidents, or stray bullets over the same period, and substantially fewer than those who have succumbed to cancer, heart disease, or the common flu.

Yet in a perfect demonstration of the fact that irony is the first casualty of campaigns of official concern, even the gates of cemeteries (where I sometimes like to walk) are posted with signs reading “CLOSED DUE TO COVID-19”.  Why cemeteries?  Full up already because of the pandemic?  Fear of communication of the virus to/from the underworld?  The impossibility of “social distancing” between hikers and mourners?  I doubt it.  On the most pleasant spring afternoon, if one herded all of the graveyard joggers and amblers together around a single tombstone, they would still be able to leave more than the mandated space between them.  (A catchy little admonitory couplet that the nanny state might wish to employ:  Stand six feet apart,/Lest you lie six feet under.)

And since eros and thanatos go together, for the first time in fifty years the police are closing brothels and swingers’ clubs.  The age of sexual purity returns:  Thou shalt not covid thy neighbour’s wife.  Of course, even a police state has to observe the decorum of political correctness:  the gay bathhouses remain open, and though they are virological laboratories, no one has ordered the homeless encampments to disperse.

Fortunately, most of the security guards stationed at the entrances to our grocery stores and home centres do what security guards almost always do:  nothing, except stare at their phones.  But the ugly reality of the state-manufactured coronavirus panic is that it has brought out the naked will to power of those petty functionaries who, as the bard described them, are “dressed in a little brief authority”.  You see these officious bullies everywhere now:  the bylaw officers who issue eight hundred dollar summonses to families for going out together for a walk, or good samaritans who stoop to feed the homeless; the LCBO employees, now wearing industrial face shields, ensconced behind plexiglass barriers, refusing to handle anything touched by a customer, and turning on them for coming a foot too close.  Or the grocery store clerk who yesterday threatened to call the police because, while I was standing in line outside, my foot encroached upon a four-inch wide orange “social distancing” line by one inch.  It’s hard to decide whether the current atmosphere is more reminiscent of Orwell’s 1984, a medieval leprosy scare, or scenes from The Andromeda Strain, The Omega Man, Twelve Monkeys, or any of the other dreary, dystopian films we all now possess the unwonted leisure to watch on the sci-fi channel.

  1. The Deb and Tony Show; or, Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

As Ferrara and others have noted, the most ominous psychopathology to silt up from the miasmal swamps that incubated COVID-19 is the supine acquiescence to the benevolent state of free citizens, who are everywhere blithely surrendering both their civil liberties and livelihoods without even questioning whether self-imprisonment and global economic suicide have made the least difference in reducing the spread of the virus.

Practically every day (during televised briefings that cry out for an SNL take-off), the eminent Doctors Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx are compelled to revise dramatically downward their earlier “projections” of the coronavirus’ infection and mortality rates.  After each downward revision, they applaud themselves that “mitigation is working”—in a schoolboy example of the post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy—and sternly advise that, though we are “succeeding in flattening the curve”, “now is not the time to become complacent”, but rather to redouble our suicidal exertions.

The medical “experts” in whom we have vested the power of life and death—and indeed, wholesale unemployment, bankruptcy, and poverty are matters of life and death—are beginning more and more to resemble the priests and prophets of the same Doomsday Church of Junk Science whose predictions of inexorably rising temperatures and imminent global incineration have also proven to be apocalyptic snake-oil.

It is by now universally conceded that the computer modeling that projected 2.2 million deaths in the U.S. is about as scientific as the divination of auspicia from the flights of birds by ancient Rome’s guild of Etruscan augurers.  The number of American dead as of April 19 was 40,000 (itself, a gross overestimation, since anyone who has tested positive for the new coronavirus is counted as having died from it, even though he may well have succumbed to any number of other lethal co-factors).

With the “curve now flattening”, current numbers suggest that the total U.S. dead, once the virus has run its course, will be less than 60 thousand; which means that the computer models of just last month are already wrong by a factor of 40.  (How avid would you be to invest your hard-earned cash in the stock market on the counsel of your financial adviser, if six weeks ago he had inflated your prospective portfolio returns by 4000 percent; more appositely, how much trust would you put in your family physician, if he recommended major surgery on the basis of a 40-fold overestimation of the lethality of a chronic condition that until now had been treated pharmacologically?)  Well, at least 40 is a good biblical number.

 

To emphasize the greater lethality of COVID-19 relative to the common flu, the authorities have not only grossly exaggerated the total death toll, but also the mortality rate, which has also been revised repeatedly downwards from the astronomically overestimated 7 percent to the current, merely absurdly, overestimated figure of 3.4.  This week, a Stanford study concluded that the mortality rate from COVID-19 had been inflated by a factor of between 50 and 85!  Dr. John Ioannides, Stanford professor of epidemiology and statistics, now calculates the true mortality rate of the coronavirus at 0.1 percent, i.e., precisely that of the common flu.  But no one knows the real number, both because the number of carriers of the virus has been wildly under-reported (at least 80 percent of those infected, according to the CDC, are perfectly healthy, asymptomatic, and therefore uncounted), and the number of fatalities wildly over-reported (by counting as a “COVID-19 death” every patient testing positive for the virus, though he probably died from other co-existent causes).  Here, the post hoc, propter hoc fallacy has been consciously and deliberately committed by our scientific “experts”, as though they couldn’t imagine that their unwashed charges would even notice.

The crucial comparison, in any case, is the relative proportion of disease to infection between flu and COVID-19.  (The “experts” are so out of their depths on this datum that they can’t even confidently hyperbolize.)  Indeed, as a consequence of the state- and media-propagated psychic pandemic, large segments of the population now believe that a viral infection is a disease.  Of course, the human body is able happily to co-exist with multiple genera of dormant viruses (some of them introduced in attenuated form by vaccines), which are only rarely pathogenic; i.e., they inseminate disease only if the immune systems of their hosts are so depleted that they fail to neutralize them.

Is COVID-19 more pathogenic than other viruses?  We have no idea, and neither do the virologists.  One would have thought that the presentation of hard evidence of the greater virulence of this “plague” would have been obligatory before reducing our society to a giant prison.  What if COVID-19’s pathogenesis turns out to be more or less in line with that of the common flu (as its total fatalities will certainly turn out to be substantially fewer)?  Will anyone say sorry?

 

In fact, the hard data that should be difficult to ignore (though the media have fastidiously ignored them) reveal just how hale and hearty enormous swaths of Canada and the United States continue to be. As of April 19, British Columbia, Alberta, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland and Labrador have suffered 76, 51, 9, 5, 4, and 3 fatalities respectively; yet their residents too are under house arrest.  (With the province’s population density of two people per square kilometer, to get Saskatchewanians to stand six feet apart would require forced bussing.)

The angel of death seems also to have passed over U.S. flyover country.  Coronavirus fatalities in Kansas, Iowa, New Mexico, Idaho, Arkansas, Nebraska, West Virginia, North Dakota, Montana, South Dakota, and Wyoming are:  92, 79, 55, 45, 41, 28, 24, 13, 10, 7, and 2 respectively.  In Arkansas, where there are about one thousand active cases, the statistical likelihood of being infected by COVID-19 is only slightly higher than that of having been sexually harassed by Bill Clinton.  The miniscule death rate in the middle of the country must be disappointing to the beleaguered coastal elites: most of these states are governed by Republicans and populated by church-going Christians, so that progressives must now be wondering whether “clinging to religion” has some prophylactic efficacy after all.

  1. Losing the Patient

 The current “mitigation” of COVID-19 brings to mind the old saw about curing the disease but losing the patient.  25 million Americans have already lost their jobs as a result of the “cure”.  Thousands of small businesses are on life-support, or have gone into receivership, and will never be resuscitated.  Everyone now concedes that the mitigation of the virus will cause a global economic collapse whose effects may well be more dire and perduring than the Great Depression of the 1930s and Financial Crisis of 2008 combined.  (One hundred percent unemployment and zero productive activity are conditions with which the world has never before experimented; not even Communism’s five-year plans have been able to achieve that miracle.)  And, needless to point out, that which kills more people annually than any viral pandemic is poverty.

As the experts have admitted from the beginning, those who become sick from the virus come overwhelmingly from sectors of the population that are already susceptible:  the elderly, residents of long-term care facilities, those with pre-existing cardio-pulmonary disease, and others whose immune systems have been impaired. The latter category will soon be swollen by those whose immune systems become impaired by the stress caused by fear, the loss of their jobs and businesses, and the higher incidence of alcohol and drug addiction (all of which phenomena are already incipient), and other as yet unimagined consequences of the “cure”.

In spite of the alarmist propaganda that COVID-19 can infect people of any age group (of course it can; hundreds of thousands of healthy, asymptomatic human hosts are currently and unknowingly “infected”), the CDC reports that 80 percent of those who have died in the United States are elderly.  World-wide, the average age of COVID-19 casualties is 73, which is higher than the average lifespan in most countries.  Why, then, are we not quarantining old age and chronic care residences, encouraging the elderly and the infirm to self-isolate or merely practice social distancing, instead of locking up and un-employing the 99.99 percent of the population that is healthy and evidently immune?  As a correspondent has written, to mitigate the harm done to a tiny fraction of the population, we have imposed an enormous burden on the whole.  But then, ministering to the needs of infinitesimal minorities while annulling the freedoms of the rest of us has become rather a habit of progressive governments.

  1. “Saving Lives”

Those few who have expressed reservations about joining our lemming-leap to economic extinction have been denounced for “caring more about the economy than human lives”, as though the two were incommensurable categories, and human life could somehow persist without the daily bread that, outside of the Edenic paradises inhabited by tenured experts and government bureaucrats, can only be won in the sweat of one’s brow.

“Saving lives” is, in any case, one of those rankly sentimental and intellectually vacuous slogans that now resounds in every political campaign, NGO mission statement, and Clinton Foundation begging letter.  If saving lives were our “highest priority” (I plead innocent of both the cliché and the tautology), we would have locked down human commerce and civil society during every previous seasonal outbreak of the common flu, and will continue to do so per omnia saecula saeculorum (annual deaths from flu world-wide, 650,000; current COVID-19 death count, 164,000).  We would, moreover, have closed the roads and made driving illegal ca. 1920 (annual traffic deaths world-wide, 1.35 million); banned the use of ladders by home-owners (annual injuries from falls, 500,000); forbidden the consumption of all foods high in sugar and cholesterol (annual deaths from diabetes, 1.6 million; from heart disease, 17 million); and eternized Prohibition (annual deaths from alcohol-related diseases, 3 million).

 

Until a month ago, everyone realized that “saving lives” must always be one desideratum measured rationally and proportionately against a multitude of others, and that saving an exquisitely tiny number isn’t worth condemning the universality of mankind to joyless regimentation, joblessness, and permanent penury.  But then, our governments’ historically unprecedented overreaction to COVID-19 is scarcely coherent even under the sweet auspices of their own sloganeering, since the millions around the world who die (of poverty, alcoholism, drug addiction, despair, and suicide) as a result of the global economic collapse, because they have been unable to see their doctors for any of the other serious diseases that regularly plague us, or because they have sensibly refused to come anywhere near a hospital, will certainly eclipse the death toll from COVID-19.

Is a life lost to COVID-19 more valuable than one lost because of the postponement of a cancer diagnosis or an open-heart surgery? (Nor is this even a hypothetical question, since coronavirus patients are at this moment being given priority for admission to hospital intensive care units around the world–priority, that is, over those who are unfortunate enough to be dying from other diseases).  Why have the authorities demonstrated no solicitude for saving those lives?  Where are the computer-modeled projections of the deaths that will inevitably accumulate in the decades-long half-life of the coronavirus “cure”?

Of course, the question that underlies all others still dares not speak its name. The blatant propaganda about the number of infections, deaths, and mortality rates aside, is there any evidence that social distancing and the closing of factories, restaurants, and shops have been ameliorative?  (In their absence, several other countries and a number of American states seem to have done at least as well as New York, Michigan, or California.)  Has anyone even asked that such evidence be presented by our political caregivers, either among the public or the purportedly “adversarial” press, which continues ludicrously to burnish its Sixties-era liberal credentials for “questioning authority” and “speaking truth to power”, while applauding government decrees that have overnight turned erstwhile free societies into giant prisons?

  1. What Constitution?

If the “evidence” our governments and medical experts have deigned to provide us consists in astrological guesses at best—consistently bad guesses, one must add, with apologies to astrologers—they are deliberately manipulated political propaganda at worst.  Indeed, they are almost certainly the latter, since like the polls that universally predicted Hillary’s landslide victory in 2016, their purpose is not to predict the future but to bring about the future they predict.  Not the catastrophic death toll per se (although the economic devastation caused by the projected apocalypse may well have that effect); but unless one is incurably naïve, it is just conceivable that there are certain ideological partisans in the United States and around the world who might be entirely sanguine about the collapse of the Trump economic boom, and positively gratified by the unprecedented expansion of state power, its conscription of private enterprise, its massive new spending and redistribution of wealth, its new social programs and no-strings-attached benefactions, and its abolition of such antiquated protections as the right to private property, free association, and religious assembly.

Since his inauguration, Donald J. Trump has been reflexively accused by the Democrats of posing a grave threat to the U.S. Constitution.  In this instance, he is plum guilty, though his enemies have hardly noticed.  Indeed, they accuse Trump of not having done enough to violate Americans’ constitutional rights and freedoms.  But then, both in this instance and otherwise, most world leaders pose a grave threat to their constitutions.

 

Citing the current “health emergency”, and having earlier expressed unambiguous admiration for China’s communist government—“more effective” than democracies at dealing with climate change—Canada’s dynastic Prime Minister Trudeau Deuxieme recently declared his right to tax and spend (i.e., to govern) without parliament for the next two years.  Ring any bells?  More than four centuries ago, when Charles I asserted the same right (invoking the “divine right of kings”), the English people responded by beheading him.  But though the opposition eventually thwarted his aspirations to absolute monarchy, in Trudeaulatrous Canada, our prime minister nonetheless retains that which will allow him to continue to look forward, on future trips, to preening and pandering in the exotic native headdress of his foreign hosts.

Scarcely chastened by his Carolean adventure, two weeks later, Trudeau is now contemplating legislation to make it a crime to “knowingly spread misinformation [about COVID-19] that could harm people”.  In view of the pestiferous misinformation that the government has already disseminated, and continues to disseminate, Trudeau’s new decree urgently invokes the old precept, Physician heal thyself.  As we all know, “misinformation” will herein be defined as any information that diverges from official government Truth.  And so, to the harmful and thus prohibited opinions that some of his “misinformed” subjects continue to ventilate, that marriage is between a man and a woman, that homosexuality is abnormal, or that gender is biologically determined, all punishable by the state as “hate crimes”, Trudeau has now added the dissemination of coronavirus statistics or strategies at variance with his government experts, as yet another category of “harmful” and judiciable “misinformation”.

 

America’s rulers seem no less oblivious to their founding traditions than Trudeau is to the history of English parliamentary democracy.  In a fifteen-minute interview, the excruciatingly patient and deferential Tucker Carlson began by asking New Jersey’s Democrat Governor Phil Murphy why the standard that prohibits large gatherings, such as religious services, until we are at zero new infections, is not the standard we have ever applied in the case of other infectious diseases, including those that are no less lethal than the present one.  Demonstrating that brawny grasp of the logical non-sequitur that is the special talent of politicians and bureaucrats, by way of a non-answer, Murphy disgorged a flood of the epidemiological jargon that is now on the lips of everyone—“need for a broader test regime”…“contact tracing”…”saliva test”–, before concluding with the obligatory banality that “too many have passed [sic]”.

TUCKER:  Current projections are 60,000 American deaths, fewer than those who annually die from flu, even “with a vaccine”.  Does that “shake your faith” in a vaccine as the “final answer”.  MURPHY:  No. That “tells me that all of the actions we are taking are making a difference”…”too many lost souls”…”precious life”…”it’s working”.  TUCKER:  Large gatherings are banned but liquor stores are deemed an essential service.  On the basis of what scientific evidence did you decide that?  MURPHY:  “Input from addiction coaches”…”Unintended mental health and addiction prices to pay”.  TUCKER:  But you closed church and synagogue services and arrested people for attending them.  Did anyone advise that practicing your faith may be important to someone’s mental health?  MURPHY:  We’ve established “good common ground with faith leaders”.  “There is an enormous amount [sic] of faith going on [sic] right now.”  TUCKER (getting visibly frustrated by M’s logical solecisms):  “On what scientific basis did you decide that sitting in a church was much more dangerous than buying liquor in a store, and why is buying liquor more important for the social fabric?”  MURPHY:  “Not either or…can have both of these realities at the same time.”  [ME:  Both?  Really?  Then why haven’t you either closed both churches and liquor stores or opened both churches and liquors?]  TUCKER  (on the arrest in New Jersey of someone sitting alone on the beach):  “Tell me how that arrests the spread of the coronavirus from an epidemiological point of view?”  MURPHY:  “I actually don’t have the specifics as to why that happened.”  TUCKER (on the arrest of and criminal charges laid against fifteen congregants in a New Jersey synagogue):  “The Bill of Rights, as you well know, protects Americans’ rights—enshrines their right to practice their religion as they see fit and to congregate together to assemble peacefully.  By what authority did you nullify the Bill of Rights in issuing this order?  How do you have the power to do that?”  MURPHY:  “That’s above my pay grade, Tucker.  I wasn’t thinking of the Bill of Rights when we did this.” TUCKER (trying again, while muscularly suppressing frustration): “Since you are an elected official, a leader in the government, an executive, how do you have the authority to order something that so clearly contravenes the Bill of Rights of the United States–the U.S. Constitution–where do you get the authority to do that?”  MURPHY:  “Well, here’s the thing.  We know we need to stay away from each other”…”would never do that without coordinating, discussing, and hashing it out with the variety of the leaders of the faiths of New Jersey.”  TUCKER (asking for the third time, but no longer able to hide his frustration):  “I’m sure you talked to every rabbi and priest.  But there’s a deeper question here [T trying desperately to be polite]…I’m sure you’ve thought about this.  You can’t just, as the governor of a state, tell people who they can talk to when and where, because the Constitution of the United States–upon which all of this is based–prohibits you from doing that.”  MURPHY:  I called up Cardinal Tobin…”We have to find a different way to worship.”  TUCKER (beating his head against the wall one last time):  “Governors are not allowed to tell people how they worship.”

  1. The Totalitarian Temptation

But Tucker, alas, is laboring under the illusion that the Constitution and the rule of law still mean something.  Long before the outbreak in Wuhan, half of America already regarded our age-old civil liberties as anachronisms, minor impediments to the progressive desiderata of “diversity”, “inclusion”, “social justice”, and (above all) the removal of a deplorable, dictatorial President, even if it required the dictatorial expedient of suborning the IRS, the FBI, the CIA, the DOJ, and the FISA court to illegally “surveil” their political opponents.  (To update a bon mot uttered by Joe Sobran during the second Bush administration—the reign of George II, as he sometimes called it–, “Homeland security will be a hollow phrase until the Internal Revenue Service and the FBI are abolished.”)  For the enemies of Trump, a police state is more or less the price Americans are expected to pay for the restoration of the Democrats to power (the only natural right they recognize).

As I have written in these pages ad nauseam, government is despotic by nature, exactly in the way that doves are libidinous by nature, and hyenas cruel.  Government is persuasion backed up by legalized violence.  If you doubt that, try to protest your government’s confiscation of your wages by withholding your taxes; try to withdraw your children from schools that are corrupting their characters and indoctrinating their vacuous brains; try to remain faithful to your religious conscience while operating a private business; or to pray too close to an abortion clinic.  You’ll end up in jail.

We ought to remember that government of every kind has always depended upon its monopoly of force.  Most governments in the third world today are still headed by local strongmen.  Throughout history tribal chieftains, feudal lords, and kings have risen to those ranks by proving their superior prowess as military conquerors, and their peerless efficiency as killers.  Until very recently, military service was considered the highest qualification for electoral office.  The exercise of force is in the historical DNA of government, and it’s in any case unlikely that the universal human lust for power (the “temptation of the world”, as Christianity has represented it) is less entrenched in those who seek and exert power for a living.  The mark of the modern progressive state is the nauseating affectation of  superior wisdom and righteousness by its ruling class, which justifies it in telling the rest of us what to do, say, and think; and the advice they offer us is always backed up by the threat of violence.  As we have seen in the case of what President Obama now belatedly laments as the “cancel culture”, when it comes to shutting down unauthorized speech, government and criminal gangs are in it together.  Antifa is merely the community outreach arm of our human rights tribunals.

 

Inevitably, “crisis” brings out these primitive human vices in particularly unpleasant guises, as in the case (see above) of the grocery store gatekeeper who threatened to call the police because my big toe obtruded upon the social distancing line.  Police states have always worked in that way:  nurturing and conscripting the natural lust for power that is latent and waiting to be conjured up in us all.  No one should be surprised if, even after the COVID-19 panic deliquesces, the imperial delusions of those whom the crisis has dressed in a little brief authority continue to strut themselves.

Historical amnesia has undoubtedly contributed to our current credulous willingness to imprison and beggar ourselves.  Few today can imagine what it was like during the Great Depression, when affluent professionals, academics, and businessmen were forced, literally, to beg for food, or abandon their families to ride the rails in search of menial labour (though even our “experts” may find out what that was like soon enough).  Similarly, few today have the least understanding of totalitarianism, though it was the dominant form of government for most of the 20th century, still exists, and remains a constant temptation for our rulers.

As most political historians have observed, tyranny, despotism, and totalitarianism have been the norm rather than the exception; liberty and the rule of law are aberrational states.  It takes little for democracies to revert to the normative state of things; indeed, Western democracies seem to have been regressing steadily in that direction since the early 20th century.

That is why, as Peter Hitchens has observed, “dissent is a moral obligation”.

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